What’s wrong (and right) with “14 things…”

A post written in 2014 seems to be making its way around the interwebs again lately. The post is called “14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools.” A link has been provided at the end of this article. Let’s talk about these “14 things” and why they may or may not be obsolete and why, obsolete or not, they still exist. Note: The follow opinions are those of David Henderson (davidinark) ONLY and do not necessarily reflect those of any employer, local, state, or national agency or organization.

  1. Computer Rooms – Most tech industries, startups, etc work in “lab-like” environments where coders, UIX-ers, customer service reps, etc all work in one big room with computers at desks. On another note: it is MUCH cheaper to purchase and maintain a lab environment. Like it or not, we are responsible for the dollars we receive and how they are used for student instruction. Would many schools LIKE to be 1:1? Sure. Reality? Never gonna happen due to limited and/or even decreasing funds.
  2. Isolated Classrooms – I agree with this one. Classrooms should have access to and make use of a wide range of resources available to students. Classrooms should not be cut off from the world, but rather embrace the broader world in order to facilitate learning and conversation.
  3. Schools Without Wifi – In an ideal world, yes, all schools would have wifi. In the real world, there are many reasons why schools might not have wifi. Money is usually thrown into the mix early during any conversations about rolling out a new, second network in schools. Even with programs like e-rate, which help schools obtain equipment and services for discounted pricing, many districts still simply do have the funds to offset the portions of those programs for which the district is responsible. There are physical constraints as well. For example, many school buildings are old with thick stone walls. This means that more devices are required in order to provide the necessary coverage because signals cannot penetrate the surfaces. It also means that buildings may require costly infrastructure upgrades such as electrical outlets, increased energy service, etc. In addition to the capital outlay costs, we’re also talking about the increased monthly bills associated with power, service agreements, etc.
  4. Banning cell phones and tablets – This is a tough one. If the district is able to create, maintain and enforce rules and policies for the use of the devices, I’m all for it. These devices can be use to greatly enrich the education of students when use appropriately and within appropriate contexts. As with nearly everything in life: moderation is key. Truth is, most adults can’t handle having cell phones in their workplace. How we can expect much-less developmentally mature students to handle them? It takes education, discipline, and re-education. Do I believe the should be banned? No. But, when a district is battling videos of students having sex circulating around all the devices on campus, it makes it hard to convince administration that the devices are worthwhile educational tools.
  5. Tech directors with admin account – Okay, this header is VERY misleading to the point the author makes. In a nutshell, the author is saying the tech director is the ONLY person with admin access. Now, that I agree with. I have been in education for 20+ years and I have NEVER restricted my regular users from having admin access on their machines. Why would I? Let them make them machines their own. They want to try a new photo editor? Great! They want to change the desktop wallpaper? Great! I know, I know – what about malware, viruses, etc? Those are valid concerns. Ideally, the tech director has the network protected. Sometimes, things happen, though. Heck, in most cases, the access level of the logged in user has NOTHING to do with the infection that spreads because savvy attackers work around the limitations anyway. On top of that, for every restriction placed on a user, there is one more thing the tech director is then responsible for. No thanks. I have enough to do already.
  6. Teacher that don’t share – Agreed. Teachers should be sharing and should be ALLOWED to share what they are doing. There is a LOT of backlash against sites like Teachers-Pay-Teachers because teachers are making money from the products and projects teachers are selling. Unless there is a discrepancy regarding intellectual property (which there is in some districts), I say teachers should absolutely share. Even if you are not out to make money on your ideas, SHARE them. Get the word out about something you did that worked wonders with your students. Share the struggles you’re having with particular content in order to ask for help. Sharing means building a community and network with which one can learn and grow professionally and personally.
  7. Schools without Facebook and/or Twitter – I agree 100%. How does your school NOT have a tool that allows community outreach, a celebration platform, and a way to share the things happening at your school!? No way. Don’t have one? Get one. Set it up with appropriate posting restrictions, shared administrative duties, and tools (like Tweetdeck)  to schedule and maintain your content. EduTechGuys can help you get going!
  8. Unhealthy cafeteria food – I agree with this one, right down to students putting their own food on their own trays and cleaning up after themselves. But, I also believe students should have access to snacks which aren’t so healthy as treats or desserts. Look, I ate plenty of fried donuts in grade school. We had to buy them as extra, which made them even more of a treat. We don’t have to go balls-to-the-wall nuts over some of this stuff. It’s called moderation. (See #4 above).
  9. Starting school at 8 o’clock for teens – Oh boy. I disagree with this one. The author says schools should have flexible starting/stopping times. No. Welcome to 99% of the real world. People have to be in certain places at certain times. Period. Look at this from an adult perspective. You are going to a conference. Maybe you are keynoting that conference. Keynote starts at 8am. But, nah, some people would rather come in at noon because they aren’t really “morning” people. Is that acceptable? Would you adjust your keynote and/or give it 6-, 8-, 10 times per day in order to accommodate your learners? What about staff meetings? Sure, the boss says they start at 10am, but that doesn’t work for you, so you just show up at 2pm and that should be fine, right? Your client needs that app you’re developing delivered by 10am for a presentation to their venture capital partners. But, nah, thats’s okay. The developer would rather bring it the next day. I know, many folks will say, “That’s not the same…” Yes, yes it is.
  10. Buying design work – Generally, I agree with this. Why hire some outside firm to design graphics, pamphlets, posters, etc for YOUR district!? Who knows your district better than the teachers and students *IN* the district!? No one – er, hopefully. My take on this: have students/teachers design the product and present their concept. If not acceptable, then work with them to get it right. If that still doesn’t work, then perhaps look at external development. I have seen some crazy talented work from students that easily rivals that which comes from high-paid graphic design agencies.
  11. Traditional Libraries – Again, I agree with this one. Libraries have evolved. In fact, many have become the “makerspace” location for schools. Be open to offering much more than printed books – but, don’t get rid of all those printed books! Many students love the tangible interaction of reading words on the page, hold the book in their hands, turning the pages with their fingers.
  12. All students get the same – I agree. Perhaps at the elementary levels, individualized choices are limited, but as students show mastery, they should be allowed to grow and choose what they want to learn. Working in groups based on what they are learning and not necessarily because they are the same age leads to robust learning. Of course, there are certain age-related appropriateness issues that need to be addressed as well. But, if you have students showing incredible proficiency in certain subjects, why should they be restricted simply because of their age?
  13. One-PD-fits-all – I agree. How many times have you gone to a professional development opportunity only to realize you could have been better served if they just given you the slides and let you learn the material on your own? How many times have you been to PD where you were required to sit for 6 hours because the content doesn’t matter, just the fact that you had your butt in a chair for the required length of time? Those days should be long, long gone by now.
  14. Standardized Tests Measure Quality of Education – I agree. I wish we could do away with standardized testing. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, so much federal funding is tied to these tests. As much as we love to say, “keep your fed money, we don’t want it,” the truth is that those monies are tied to programs that are vital for schools and which could not function without those monies – special education, certain federal programs, etc. What we need is to disconnect those funds from the tests. I remember taking a standardized test in 5th grade and then another in 8th grade. I think it might have been the IOWA test, maybe? I dunno. But, that’s my point: I don’t know because I don’t remember. I don’t remember because it was never made into a big deal. We didn’t have “test parties” and all that. It was treated as no big deal, no pressure. Kids are WAY over tested. Period. Not just standardized, but in general. The real world doesn’t work that way. If you were tested every three days, how much work could get done? How much learning could you get done?

While the article does raise some valid points, there are certainly some aspects which seem to indicate that the author lives in some perfect, money-rich world. That would be nice.

Original article: http://ingvihrannar.com/14-things-that-are-obsolete-in-21st-century-schools/


It’s the little things – 5 ideas for EdTech Micro-Lessons

Isn’t it always? The little things usually make the biggest impression. From just a simple thank you to a yes ma’am, the little things help define a person, a situation, an event, etc.  So why are we always shooting for the big win in the classroom setting?  Shouldn’t we make more memorable, meaningful small ones?

That’s where the Micro-Lesson comes in. Small, fun, impactful lessons that you can think up over coffee in the morning or discussion in the teacher’s lounge. Set a goal in your PLC meeting to leave with 5 EdTech Micro-Lessons in your bag of tricks.  To help you get started, here are 5 ideas to add some fun and excitement to your classroom and lessons:

  1. PODCAST – You know us and podcasts, we love them! And, so do many others. Who doesn’t like to put on their own “show?” This is easily accomplished by creating small 90-second podcasts covering whatever the current topic is during that day’s lesson. Use your laptop, iPad, etc. to allow the students to come to the “recording booth” and record their opinions, views, assigned topic, etc. Share with parents and students and watch the engagement bloom.
  2. CLASS-CREATED PRESENTATION – Let students create a group presentation using your multimedia projector or television and add an app like Buncee. Critical thinking and creativity are addressed in an open, comfortable environment where students can learn from each other and explore their creative avenues by sharing ideas.
  3. PHOTO ALBUM – This one is an easy one and can be accomplished almost every day. We recommend at least once a week, but possibly on the same day, use any digital camera in the room and document the work of the students individually and as a group. Cover that day’s work or the work from the week. Short and simple wins here. Make the creation a group event using Google Slides, Prezi, Buncee or other presentation apps. Once again: sharing excites the parents (And keeps the refrigerator less cluttered)!
  4. NEWSCAST – It’s video time! Get creative with writing: 3 to 4 topics, 3 to 4 groups. Each group has 10 minutes to pick a newscaster(s), write their summary and design their scene. Their final “report” should be no longer than 60 seconds of air time. Encourage students to get each member in the video and use props if possible. Use your device of choice, record the video (we recommend a Padcaster Setup) and put it on the class/school/district YouTube channel. This can be very informative for your parents and lots of fun for your students!
  5. GAMIFICATION – This one is a tried and true friend. Gamification has been around since the poster board and sticky stars (and yes, way before that). Several websites and apps (such as ClassDojo) help to bring the fun of achieving goals and attaining badges for a job well done. This helps increase student engagement across the board. Every student needs a “win,” and this helps to create that. Gamification can be a classroom experience or a personal one. Over time, the feedback the student receives will help foster a growth mindset, propelling them throughout their educational journey.

#education #teaching Elemental Speed Dating Elements4d as #AR #ProfessionalDevelopment Ice Breaker

Daqri released Elements 4d several years ago. If you’re not familiar with it, it is a combination app and physical blocks that users scan with their smartphone. When the block is detected, a 3d model of the cube shows up on the user’s device containing a virtual model of the element being scanned.

Not only that, but the the REAL magic comes into play when two elements are placed next to each other physically! If they mix, the app shows the combined result! For example, Hydrogen and Oxygen form a virtual cube of water!

When I am introducing Augmented Reality (AR) to teachers, I hand out PDF-printed blocks or enlarged panels of the blocks (links below) to each teacher. They then have 10-15 minutes to take part in what I call “Elemental Speed Dating!” They have to get up and move around and try to pair their selected element with other elements to see who has a good “bond” with each other! Some elements don’t mix well, so the teachers must keep moving on, trying to find potential “mates” for their elements.

It is so much fun and a great way to get folks up and moving, interacting, and definitely putting a new twist on dating… CARBON dating, anyone? (I’m a Dad. I make bad Dad jokes. It’s what I do.)

Find out more from Daqri: http://elements4d.daqri.com/

My Google folder with the enlarged single panels: HERE!

3 Ways to Look Beyond the Spotlight: Student Careers in Sports, Music/Film, and Education #education #edtech #studentvoice

Ask a student what he or she wants to be when they grow up. What answers do you generally get? Fireman, police officer, etc, sure. Often, though, we hear things like: singer, rapper, President, actor, athlete… While there is nothing wrong with any of these professions, we need to encourage students to look beyond those which are the “limelight” careers.


Perhaps you have students who love sports, but who are just not destined for the field, rink, court, etc. Teachers can help them see that there are all kinds of related jobs to sports that don’t necessarily thrust them into the spotlight nor threaten their physical being. For example, sports medicine is related and covers a variety of jobs: sports doctors and nurses, medical techs, assistants, and more. What about artists in sports? Absolutely! Graphic design for logos, stadium signs, banners of heroes from days gone by and the stars of the current team. What about writers? There are sports writers that work for news and sports outlets, sure. But, did you know sports teams (professional, college, amateur, etc) need writers? Think about media programs that are handed out at games or the biographies that are handed out to sportscasters, etc. How about the person who writes the words and puts up the graphics on the big screens over the field? What about music in sports? Theme songs, walk-off tunes, etc. How about finances: team, player, concession, stadium, etc – all need money and they need people to manage that money… And to manage the people who make it all run – HR personnel, etc.

And, that was JUST sports and we still didn’t cover a sliver of what’s out there!


What about the music industry? People have to write the songs. People have to manage the singers. It takes people to book gigs, create album covers, produce the music, make the videos, and everything else that goes with each of THOSE types of jobs. The film industry needs writers, graphic artists, make-up artists, assistants, caterers, and a host of other positions vital to the production of what we all see on the big screen.


What about education? Teachers, administrators, writers, artists… People from all walks of life with varying backgrounds are needed in education (at all levels, too!). Your students might not want to be teachers, but what about participating in other capacities? Administrators help shape and guide the direction of a district, campus, or building. Counselors help students in need. Technology Directors help teachers and students use and implement various technologies to help with education. Don’t forget some of the vital roles played in the school environment: Food services, custodial services, transportation, maintenance, and more.

There are all kinds of ancillary opportunities waiting for people to fill them. We just have to help our students see the potential and the availability. We have to expose students to thinking differently about using their talents in ways they may not have realized were waiting.

Avoid the post-#FETC Blues!

#FETC2017 is over. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs. How do you avoid the post-#FETC blues? Use these tips to help!

  • Marinate – You’ve met lots of fun, exciting people. You’ve attended life-changing sessions, workshops, poster presentations, and keynotes. You’ve taken more into your brain in the last few days than you have all year. Relax. Don’t think too much. Let all that information, all those tips, and all those tricks marinate in your head for a while. Grab a glass (or cup) of your favorite beverage, sit back in your favorite chair, and relax. Don’t think too much about all that stuff. Let key points float up into your consciousness and then fade out again, replaced some other cool bit you learned while in Orlando.
  • Connect and Collaborate – You probably made a LOT of new friends at FETC – folks you hadn’t known before and folks you only knew through publications, blogs, podcasts, etc. You may have amassed quite a collection of Twitter handles, emails, and Instagram usernames. Reach out and connect with those folks. Drop a quick “So glad we met at FETC!” If you aren’t following the folks you met, take a few moments to go down your list and look them up, then connect with them. Follow them, Google them, Share with them.
  • Find out what you missed. You can’t do EVERYTHING at FETC. I know. I tried a few years ago. You just can’t do it. So, head to fetc.org and check the site for presenter notes, links, information, and updates. Keep checking during the next few weeks and months. Reach out on social media and ASK folks to share their FETC experiences, insights, and “Ah-Ha!” moments.
  • Listen to the folks WE talked to! We learned SO MUCH from each and every one of you that came by the EduTechGuys podcast table! Absolutely incredible, amazing things you are doing for your students and/or in your organizations to help teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Head over to youtube.com/edutechguys and look for archived interviews with the wonderful folks we met at FETC!
  • SHARE! What did *YOU* learn at FETC2017? Share your experience!! Leave a comment here at edutechguys.com, post a Tweet, share on Facebook. Don’t keep it to yourself – let EVERYONE know!

New Year, New Resolutions for Your Classroom

It’s 2017, and I’m sure most people have made their New Year’s resolutions. Educators do this especially after having a nice Christmas break to ponder what went right, went wrong and needs to be modified for the new year. Unfortunately, those resolutions should have been made on the fly during the previous semester. Now the attempt to implement technology, increase student growth, prepare for assessments, etc. will push back most progress made during the previous four months.  Here are a three (of many) ways to take advantage of those “resolutions” and help them help you help them.

Technology – KISS it. Keep it simple. Take a few hours and really look at what technology needs you should use in your classroom. If you just need the students to use it for creation and delivery, then just use it for creation and delivery. Don’t attempt to implement a new app, plugin or website unless you feel you could teach it to your peers in a 3 hours workshop. I know this was short, but come on, we’ve been dealing with this for almost three decades. If you haven’t, it’s time to make your Personal Technology Teaching Plan.

Mindfulness – Some stress is good for you, but toxic stress is defeating us before we ever even get in the game. Toxic stress occurs when daily demands consistently outpace our ability to cope with those demands. This gets into some really heavy areas dealing with emotions, communication, kindness, joy, sadness, fear, dread, coping, talking… well you get the picture. TONS of information at Mindful Schools  It may be something you, your school and maybe your district wants/needs to look into.

Growth Mindset – I know, you are thinking now “He’s just throwing out all the keywords in education speak now.”  It may seem that way, but a lot of this has merit.  A growth mindset is one of those. The quick and the dirty of it: when students realize they can develop their intelligence and it isn’t just a fixed element, their achievement increases.  It’s not just about effort, but helping students approach other strategies and seek multiple outcomes to their problems. The wins and setbacks in the short and long term of it prepare students to deal with obstacles and continually seek achievement and hopefully personal success (self esteem). You can find much more here at Mindset Works.

These are just three suggestions that although they may seem radical (then again what new year’s resolutions aren’t?), may help to create that spark in you and/or your students and change 2017 for you. Good or bad, change is always exciting and, if dealt with appropriately, will render a different and usually better outcome. Happy New Year and good teaching to you!


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